January 20, 2016
The Legislature convened last week with the Governor’s State of the State address. And the primary message was to provide more corporate tax relief in the form of a $1 BILLION tax cut and creation of a new $250 million Florida Enterprise Fund. These proposals are all purported to be for the purpose of creating higher paying jobs in Florida. Higher education was not mentioned once in the Governor’s address as if higher education has no role in providing higher paying jobs for its citizens.
UFF certainly cannot support any such programs unless public education get its fair share, and that cannot happen when the Governor is willing to diminish Florida’s tax base even further. We must stand against these proposals and let the Legislature know that funding for K-12 and higher education will go further to meet our state’s long term goals.
This first session report will update you on the more significant legislation impacting our colleges, universities and YOU, the UFF membership! Watch for UFF Action Alerts regarding pending legislation during the weeks ahead.
Guns on Campus
HB 4001 by Rep. Greg Steube/SB 68 by Senator Greg Evers UFF opposes this legislation to allow carrying of concealed weapons on college and university campuses. UFF concurs with the vast majority of faculty, students and law enforcement that prohibiting firearms on college and university campuses, except by trained law enforcement and security officers, is an essential element of an overall campus safety plan. See UFF position paper.
HB 4001 has passed all House committees of reference and could go to the House Floor next week. Watch for an Action Alert should this bill be scheduled next week.
Senate Bill 68 is referenced to the Senate Judiciary Committee for its next stop but is not being heard this week. The Judiciary Committee was the dead end of this legislation last year. We are working on that possibility again as well as trying to secure a minimum of twenty votes to defeat the bill should it go to the Senate Floor.
HB 7043 by Rep. Erik Fresen/CSSB 524 by Senator Don Gaetz The provisions of the bill, if passed, will be incorporated into the Florida Statutes on July 1, 2016. The bill modifies public postsecondary education performance funding affected by the 2015-2016 General Appropriations Act (GAA). See UFF position on performance funding.
Fee Waiver For Graduate Assistants
HB 1311 by Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasalinda/SB 1230 by Senator Maria Sachs http://www.uff-uf.org/uff-position-on-higher-education-access-and-textbook-affordability/ Graduate assistants provide meaningful teaching and research functions at most of our state universities. UFF supports these bills which provide graduate assistants with fee waivers. The bills are not identical. HB 1311 waives financial aid fees, technology fees, fees for security, access or identification cards and fees relating to the use of facilities. SB 1230 would waive all fees. The fee waivers will assist thousands of graduate assistants with added financial support to supplement their stipends for teaching and/or research.
HB 7019 by Rep. Elizabeth Porter/SB 984 by Senator John Legg UFF has worked on these bills as they have passed through their higher education committee references. Both bills have the compromise 45-days before the first day of class provision for posting textbooks or instructional materials on the college or university website. We will continue working on this legislation to make it as faculty friendly as possible. See UFF position paper on textboook affordability.
University Employees' Health Insurance
PCB HHSC 16-01 by the House Health and Human Services Committee/SB 1434 by Senator Jeff Brandes These bills impact the State Group Health Insurance Program, which serve our faculties at the state universities. The House had proposed this legislation last session, but now a Senate sponsor has been found. UFF will be working with other unions whose members will be affected by this legislation. The bill modifies parts of the current plan and establishes different level health insurance plans in the future. The bill could have negative implications for both benefits and premiums for many of our university faculty. Stay tuned for further updates.